When you read our monthly newsletter the “Philoptochos” is referred to frequently. Exactly what is Philoptopchos?
Philoptochos (fee-lop-to-hos) is a Greek word. Literally, Philoptochos means “friend of the poor”. It is an organization of women who are friends of the poor. However their mission does not just involve helping the those who don't have monetary resources — you can also include those who are "poor in spirit, poor in health, poor in companionship, poor in emotional stability and poor in whatever is needed to lead a fulfilling life.” Members of our clergy frequently refer to the Philoptochos as the “backbone of the church,” precisely because our Lord said, "If you do it for one of the least of these my brethren, you do it for me."
The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society was established in November 1931, by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, who was then Archbishop of North and South America. The Philoptochos Society has since evolved into the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. It is the second largest philanthropic women's organization in the United States, second only to the Hadassah.. For over eighty years it has offered philanthropy through a multitude of programs that make a difference in the lives of people in the United States and throughout the world. Philoptochos fulfills its mission to “help the poor, the destitute, the hungry, the aged, the sick, the unemployed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the widowed, those with disabilities and the victims of disasters through its National and Metropolis Boards and its 485 Chapters and 27,500 members nationwide. Philoptochos functions at the local, Diocesan, Archdiocesan, Metropolis, national, and international levels.
Is there a minimum age requirement? Membership is open to all women over 18 years old who are of the Greek Orthodox faith. It is your right and your privilege to be a member of Philoptochos. Even though the original intent was for the organization to be a “women – only” organization, men are not prevented from becoming a member.
How does the Philoptochos get its funding? The Philoptochos gets its funding from various fund raising events held throughout the year, as well as through members' dues and private contributions.
If a member of our community is:
- ill or needs an operation but does not have the financial means to pay for it, Philoptochos gets involved.
- has lost their job and needs help with basic expenses such as food, Philoptochos gets involved.
The Philoptochos is there to provide companionship and emotional support as members of our community go through troubling times. They are also there to sponsor events throughout the year that help fulfill the church’s mission.
At Annunciation, our parish family knows how much the Philoptochos contributes to our parish. There is one example that really emphasizes this point. When the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck the Cathedral in 1989, the Cathedral needed to be torn down and rebuilt. Annunciation Philoptochos immediately donated $500,000 towards the rebuilding the Cathedral. Over the years, it contributed $1.25 million to the rebuilding of the Cathedral's ancillary facilities.
The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, has held fast to this tradition of philanthropy, and has fervently strengthened the sense of love and compassion for all individuals in need. Thus, being a member of Philoptochos really means actively living and practicing our Orthodox faith. There can be no better response to the question of why participate in Philoptochos than to say membership is the manifestation and witness of faith as an Orthodox Christian.
If you live in the San Francisco area, please join us for a meeting. If you live outside of our area contact your local parish and get involved. Membership is a rewarding experience that you will never forget.
Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, San Francisco.